Tag Archives: sweet

BONUS Day 31: 30 Day Journal

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“Water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of softness overcoming hardness.”   ~ Lao Tzu

Today, for some reason, when I thought of this #30DayJournal and the theme of FLOW, I didn’t think of water or a river. I thought of honey flowing.

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After that, the phrase “Life is Sweet” popped into my head and although our prompts steered us in the direction of letting go of hardness or letting in softness and gentleness, I was focused on life’s sweetness.

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Imagine if this was honey dripping on the page and you could just swipe a finger through it and taste the sweetness.

Tomorrow, my nephew Jake and his fiancee, Chelsea, are getting married. He is the first of my parents’ grandchildren to get married and I know in the midst of this celebration, there will be an ache of sadness that Papa isn’t here to witness it.

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But, even with this, I believe there will be enough joy and love flowing to ease that ache.

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My mom just had her 80th birthday and we’ll be celebrating that event in a few weeks. Lest you get the wrong mental image of this grandmother-of-six let me share a few details: she is active, well read and she does yoga weekly and stretches daily, she walks her dog Molly six days a week, will be retiring for the third (and final) time in about a month, and will be wearing red patent leather pumps with her chic sheath dress at her grandsons wedding tomorrow.

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There is so much to celebrate, including the completion of this project!

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I will be returning to my craft desk tomorrow to create a wedding card, but I’m going to catch my breath and catch up on a few other things in my life, including getting enough sleep!

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Thank you.

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Strawberry Shortcake with Sweet Yogurt-Cream

Strawberries

When I was walking through the Farmer’s Market on Sunday, I passed a stand and was drawn by the sweet scent of strawberries.  Just what I needed to try the recipe I saw on The Pioneer Woman, Mixed Berry Shortcake, except I was going with an all-strawberry version.

But first I want to show you the adorable apricots I got.

Apricots & Strawberries

These strawberries are pretty big but I don’t think I’ve ever had apricots this tiny! I could have made Strawberry Apricot Shortcake if I hadn’t eaten all the apricots.  They were so sweet and wonderful, I couldn’t resist eating them unadorned.

Apricots

But today I’m telling you about a yummy Strawberry Shortcake recipe.  It would make a wonderful Mother’s Day dessert.  The only thing is that though  the biscuits were good in the recipe at The Pioneer Woman, I love the Buttermilk Biscuits from Smitten Kitchen even more.

This is a combination of those two recipes, adapted (barely) because I hardly ever use unsalted butter unless I buy it specially, so I made the biscuits with salted butter.   I also found the ratio of biscuit-to-topping in The Pioneer Woman recipe was not as generous as I like. Using the Smitten Kitchen recipe yields fewer biscuits which is more in balance with how I loaded them up with strawberries and Sweet Yogurt-Cream.

This Sweet Yogurt-Cream is what really knocked my socks off.  It doesn’t whip up as stiff as whipped cream but it is silky, rich, but not quite as rich as full whipped cream, tangy and sweet and seems healthy because, for heaven’s sake, it has yogurt in it! Rem said it reminded him of cheesecake when he tasted the whole dessert.  Even if you want to skip the buttermilk biscuits and slice up some pound cake, do try the Sweet Yogurt-Cream.

Butter

Strawberry Shortcake with Sweet Yogurt-Cream

(adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

Makes 6 Large Biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons  sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

9 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup  buttermilk

STRAWBERRIES

2 pints strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

zest and juice of 1 small orange

SWEET YOGURT CREAM

1 tub (7 ounces) plain Greek yogurt (I like the regular Fage yogurt, not nonfat)

1 cup cold heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

Dry Ingredients

Directions:

BISCUITS

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick spray.

Put dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor (or in a large mixing bowl).  Add butter and pulse until butter is cut into the flour and mixture resembles coarse cornmeal (if mixing by hand you can use a pastry cutter for this step or your fingers and rub butter into the flour – as above).

While pulsing processor (or stirring), slowly add buttermilk just until mixture barely comes together.

Turn onto counter and knead together a few times until dough holds together and is no longer crumbly.

Drop by 1/4 cup onto baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Big Buttermilk Biscuit

Confession: I over-mixed my biscuits.  Don’t be like me.  They were still delicious.

STRAWBERRIES

Wash, stem and slice strawberries and put in a bowl.

Add sugar, orange zest and orange juice and stir.

Let macerate for 15 to 30 minutes until juicy.

More strawberries

SWEET YOGURT-CREAM

In a large mixing bowl, combine yogurt, heavy whipping cream and sugars and whip with mixer until stiff, though it won’t be as stiff as regular whipped cream.

Strawberry Shortcake

You can split the biscuits or just pile the sliced berries on top and dollop on the cream.  Now doesn’t that look good? And, by the way, this is delicious for breakfast.

Thanks for the visit.

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Missing Santa

Santa Mike & Papa

It’s Christmas Eve and also my dad’s birthday.  This is our first Christmas without him.

In the picture above, my dad is on the right and my brother is on the left.  Being Santa is kind of a family thing.  I love Christmas and have lots of wonderful memories and traditions that I enjoy.  But I miss my dad and find the sadness catches me by surprise sometimes.

Ceramic Santa

Of course Santa is everywhere this time of year and most of the time I’m ok, but sometimes I lose it. I don’t feel bad about crying either.  I’ve found that the sadness passes too, often as quickly as it comes.

Rem's Santa

My dad didn’t play Santa that often but he had the beard, the twinkle in his eye and the love year ’round.  He really loved playing Santa and had a whole character down.  He wasn’t a bored mall-Santa with an acrylic beard and vinyl boot toppers putting in his shift.  He interacted with the kids, listening to them and asking them questions.  He used to talk about “Randolph” the reindeer.  Kids would try and correct him but he would insist that his reindeer’s name was Randolph.

Li'l Li'l Pup

Sometimes, he would pretend to fall asleep, snoring dramatically, because he was so exhausted from working in his toyshop.  Some kids, usually girls, wanted to let Santa sleep, shushing others with a cautious “Shhh, Santa’s sleeping.” But others, often little boys, would tug his sleeve and shout at him “SANTA!  Wake UP, Santa!”

Santa on a Big Rig

So – I’m thinking about my dad and missing him.  But I look around and see the familiar red hat with furry white trim.  I’ve decided that Santa is a good way to remember him.

I made a pot of minestrone the other day using his recipe.  Cooking is another good way to remember my dad.  Making and eating the soup thick with vegetables, elbow macaroni and beans, topped with grated Parmesan cheese was like a little tribute to him.  He enjoyed cooking and loved feeding others.

Our family will be gathering today and tomorrow and there is an empty place and a sadness with him gone.   But his memory lives on in countless ways.

Papa in Red

David Faw

December 24, 1934 ~ May 24, 2012

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Christmas Crunch

Big Batch of Christmas Crunch

This is an easy recipe that goes together pretty quickly.  If you need to bring something to a party or want to give a little homemade treat out to friends, this might be just the ticket.

It is a sweet-salty combination of cereal, pretzels, nuts and Craisins enhanced with red and green M&M’s.  Melted white and peanut butter baking chips stick it all together into delicious, munchable nuggets. It might even increase your Christmas spirit if you are finding yourself in need of a little holiday boost.

Sweet and Salty Christmas Cruncch

I’ve seen several similar recipes and since I’m giving some away I have made a few batches with different variations myself.  I think this is the right balance of all the ingredients.

Christmas Crunch Ingredients

Christmas Crunch

Adapted from the back of the Chex box

– 1 batch serves Santa and 9 reindeer

Ingredients:

7 cups Rice Chex cereal, divided

2 cups small pretzels, broken in pieces

1.5 cups white baking chips

5 oz. (1/2 bag) peanut butter baking chips

1 12-oz. bag red and green M&M’s

¾ to 1 cup roasted, salted pistachios or peanuts

¾ cup Craisins or other dried, sweetened cranberries (this is half a package of Craisins)

Directions:

Measure 4 cups of cereal into a large bowl.  Add broken pretzels.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

In a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl, heat the white baking chips until melted.  Different microwaves have different power, so I suggest doing it in stages of about 15 to 20 seconds at a time and stir after each time.  I use mine at 50% power and it takes about 1.5 minutes.  The chips will hold their shape, even when they’re nearly melted.  Stir and make sure they are completely melted and smooth.

Almost Melted

All melted and smooth

When the white baking chips are completely melted, pour over the bowl of cereal and pretzels and stir together to coat.  Spread the coated cereal and pretzels out on one baking sheet to set.

Put the remaining 3 cups of cereal in the large bowl and the peanut butter baking chips in the medium bowl.

Melt the peanut butter baking chips in the microwave, and when it is melted, coat the remaining cereal, as above.

Melted Peanut Butter Chips & Cereal

Spread the peanut-butter-chip-coated cereal onto the second baking sheet to set.

When the cereal has set (you can speed this up by putting the baking sheet with coated cereal in the fridge for a few minutes), break up coated the cereal and pretzels into a large bowl, add M&M’s, Craisins and nuts and stir gently to combine.

Loaded with Goodies

I like how the red and green of the M&M’s stand out in the mix.

Christmas Crunch with Christmas Lights

If you want to make this recipe even easier, add the M&M’s and Craisins into the bowl before combining with the melted white baking chips and proceed as written. Add the nuts to the second batch before adding the peanut butter baking chips. This will make a more homogenized mix but it’s equally delicious.

Store in an airtight container.

I packed some into cellophane bags to give away.  I wrote labels and added some cute Santa and Snowman clothespins I picked up a few years ago.

Bags of Crunch

Thanks for stopping by.

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Green Tomato Chutney

A few weeks ago I made Green Tomato Chutney.  My parents had tomato plants in their backyard and as the days got shorter, fewer  and fewer tomatoes were ripening.  I suggested they make a batch of chutney and found myself the recipient of a bunch of green tomatoes.  Did I mention I’ve NEVER made Green Tomato Chutney?

Years ago I worked for a food stylist and we did recipe testing and recipe development.  I made several big batches of fruit chutney, carefully following her recipes and under her firm direction.  I remembered how delicious they were and then just days before getting the tomatoes from my folks someone mentioned she was making a batch of Green Tomato Chutney.

I started looking up recipes online and found a wide range.  Some looked overly complicated, others plain and simple but without the layers of flavor I love in a good chutney. I picked out two  to give me the basic framework and assembled the rest of the ingredients I needed to make these unripe tomatoes into tasty chutney.

Green Tomato Chutney

Ingredients:

6 lbs. green tomatoes, cored and diced (substitute apples for all or part of the tomatoes if no green tomatoes are available)

3 large apples such as Pippins, (crisp, tart/sweet), chopped (omit these apples if you make chutney with apples in place of tomatoes)

2 large yellow onions, peeled and chopped

2 sweet bell peppers (red or yellow), seeded and chopped

1 small chile pepper, seeded and minced

2 gloves garlic, minced

1 whole lemon, seeded, chopped fine, including peel

1 3-to-4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine

1.5 to 2 cups cider vinegar

2 to 2.5 cups brown sugar

1 Tbsp. mustard seed

1 Tbsp. coriander seed

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. chile flakes/crushed red pepper

1 1/2 cups raisins, black or golden or combination

Directions:

Combine tomatoes, apples, onions, bell pepper, chile pepper, garlic, lemon, ginger and 1.5 cups vinegar in large pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Add 2 cups brown sugar, mustard seed, coriander seed, salt and chile flakes and simmer until tender about 45 to 55 minutes.

As chutney cooks, stir occasionally.  As it thickens, stir more frequently and keep a careful watch so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom.

Taste and adjust seasoning, adding vinegar or sugar as needed.  Add a little at a time.  It is easier to add an ingredient like vinegar than to subtract it if you add too much (speaking from experience). You are looking for a balance of tangy/sweet with the bits of ginger and lemon adding bright accents. If a more spicy relish is desired, increase the chile pepper and/or chile flakes.

Stir in the raisins and heat a few minutes to plump them up.  Stir often as raisins will stick to the bottom of the pot and burn easily (again, I speak from experience).  If this happens, call them caramelized and move on.

Ladle the hot chutney into sterilized half-pint  jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and process in a water bath for 5 minutes.  There is a lot of information about canning here at the Ball Canning and Preserving website.  You can also skip the whole canning thing and store the chutney in the fridge.  But then you miss the joy of hearing the little pop as the lids seal.  Ahhh, what a satisfying sound!

Once I started eating the jar of chutney I saved for home, I wanted it with everything.  I’m at the bottom of a pint jar and starting to eye the jars that I have set aside to give as gifts.

Chutney is great with meats, curries, scrambled eggs, shaken up in a jar with olive oil, lemon juice and mustard as a salad dressing, stirred into yogurt to top vegetables (roasted cauliflower with yogurt and chutney), layered into sandwiches or spread with cream cheese on a cracker or toast.  It’s also fantastic with leftover turkey.

Thanks for the visit.

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Banana Nice Dream

Making healthier choices in my life means eating differently. Ice cream has been a staple and this recipe gives me something to enjoy that is still sweet, cold and creamy but is not as loaded with sugar and fat, even when I add the optional peanut butter.

It is hardly a recipe and it isn’t ice cream.  But it really is yummy and if nothing else answers the occasional question “what am I going to do with all of these ripe bananas?”   Yes, you can freeze them for banana bread (and I do) but this give you another option. It is also a fun recipe because it seems to involve just a pinch of magic.  The bananas are sliced, frozen and then whirled in a food processor or blender and they  transform from an icy slurry of banana to a pale, creamy frozen dessert.

I found the recipe at the kitchen and decided to call it Banana Nice Dream because it is like ice cream even though it has no dairy and you don’t use an ice cream maker to make it.  In fact, the basic recipe is just ONE ingredient.  If you are vegan or know someone who is or someone who is avoiding sugar or can’t tolerate lactose, give this a try.  Or even if you are just trying to make some healthier choices, this recipe is worth knowing about.

Banana Nice Dream

Ingredients

3 to 5 really ripe bananas (if the bananas aren’t spotty and even over-ripe, your Nice Dream won’t be so nice and may taste a little green)

(really, that’s it!)

Optional Ingredients

Peanut Butter

Honey

Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice bananas into chunks.
  2. Put on a plate or tray covered with parchment paper or plastic wrap and freeze uncovered for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  3. Put frozen banana  chunks into bowl of food processor (or into blender)* and process until smooth and creamy. Stop and scrape down sides of bowl as needed.  This will take about 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. If desired, add some or all optional ingredients.  It depends on how many bananas you start with but for 5 bananas I use about 2 rounded tablespoons of peanut butter, a drizzle of honey and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

*Note: Sorry, I didn’t test it in the blender and the comment from my mom said when she tried it, it didn’t work, so I can’t recommend it.  I saw other online recipes that suggested using the blender but for now I suggest using a processor.

You can eat it freshly made and soft or scrape it into a container, freeze it and scoop it like ice cream later.

The basic recipe is good and I buy extra bananas to have ripe ones on hand for making a batch.  It wasn’t a hit with Rem but he likes the chocolate-peanut butter version.   I hope you give it a try!

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